Alumni Profiles

Catherine MacPherson (MHA'07): Sense of Community

“I enjoyed engaging in both policy and administrative leadership and knowing that making good and well- reasoned decisions at these levels had the potential to benefit numerous individuals, both providers and recipients of health services and the population as a whole.”

Posted by Kathy MacFarlane on September 28, 2020 in Alumni & Friends

Growing up in a rural community of Creignish, Cape Breton, Catherine MacPherson (MHA’07) knew she wanted a career in health care. She completed her undergrad at McMaster University but returned home to the Maritimes for her masters. “I recall reading a Dal pamphlet when I was in high school outlining the MHA program and being drawn to the curriculum. There was no other school for me to explore than Dal,” she says.

She began her undergraduate training with an interest in general health care and realized that the areas that interested her the most were at the organizational and system levels. “I enjoyed engaging in both policy and administrative leadership and knowing that making good and well- reasoned decisions at these levels had the potential to benefit numerous individuals, both providers and recipients of health services and the population as a whole.”

Opportunities to learn and grow

A real sense of community is important to Catherine and a shared commitment to doing good for the broader community is a big part of what she loves about the Maritimes. She has volunteered her time and expertise with the IWK Health Centre Board and Board Quality Committee, the Bluenose Chapter of the Canadian College of Health Leaders, and the School of Health Administration.

“Part of engaging in volunteer work is also an opportunity for me to learn, refine and grow new skills as a leader. In each of my volunteer commitments, I have worked with and learned from extraordinary community leaders.  I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had to serve local organizations and will always seek out and be open to how I can continue to contribute in a meaningful way in areas that are important to me.”

Catherine hopes that all students take every opportunity to learn. “Even the most challenging of situations present great opportunities to learn and grow. Be open to areas and opportunities you may have never previously considered. You never know where they might take you,” she says.

As a sessional lecturer with the School of Health Administration, Catherine taught students about the Canadian health system and information systems in health administration. She enjoyed teaching tremendously and says,

“it is one of the things I am most proud of having engaged in in my career. The MHA students are always so full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas about the health system and health leadership. I think each year I learned just as much, if not more, from the students than they did from me. It was a difficult decision to step back from this but as our family grew and so too did my professional responsibilities, I wanted to be sure I was in a position to give my best to each of my commitments.  It is something I would love the opportunity to do again when the timing is right.”

Share mutual goals

Catherine has worked with Shannex for over 10 years and is currently the Senior Vice President, Operations. “What drew me to the organization was our commitment to our residents and a focus on quality, continuous improvement and innovation. We are surrounded by team members in all types of roles across the organization who are committed to those same things every day. It is incredibly fulfilling to be able to work alongside team members who share those mutual goals.”

COVID-19 created an unprecedented challenge for long term care and retirement living. Keeping their residents and team members safe and well has been the utmost priority.  In order to support their front line teams to care for residents every day, they had a Pandemic Response Team at Shannex which consisted of infection prevention and control, occupational health, procurement, clinical practice, facilities and asset management, human resources, communications and operations leadership. “Our residents are central to every decision we make and the dedication of our team members through COVID-19 has been so incredibly humbling. The commitment, creativity and care that team members demonstrated every day through a very challenging time is incredible.”

With the increased public attention on nursing homes across the country it has put the spotlight on long term care and its importance as part of the health system as a whole.  Catherine feels, “there is great opportunity for productive and collaborative dialogue about the future of long-term care and seniors care more broadly in our respective provinces.”

Dal Memories

Reflecting back on her time at Dal as a student, Catherine experienced a sense of community, much like she values and carries forward today as a respected health professional.  “Without question, the friendships and lasting connections I made at Dal are my best memories. The MHA program was and still is a very tight knit community. There was a genuine sense that the staff and faculty were rooting for each of us to succeed in whichever path we chose. This is evident in the strength of many of our connections to the School to this day, 13 years after graduating. The small program size and challenging curriculum also forged lasting friendships among the students, many of whom continue to be in touch with each other in spite of careers that have taken us in many different directions.”

What does the future hold for Catherine? “As in everything I do professionally, I aim to be challenged and to make a meaningful contribution. Hopefully the future holds much of the same!”